The Ultimate Fighter 21, Episode 2: Psych!

Coincidentally, after the Jon Jones news, I found this fun recap from Jones’ stint on TUF. Back to this year: Hey, we have a new theme song! It’s … short. It tells us nothing. The Blackzilians won the first fight. sending top prospect Kamaru Usman against the underconfident Michael Graves. Back in the house, seven hours after the fight (guess they’re fighting in the early afternoon), Graves is beating himself up worse than Usman did. His American Top Team-mates try to build him back up but sound frustrated with the process. Hayder Hassan, the one last seen yelling at Usman … Continue reading The Ultimate Fighter 21, Episode 2: Psych!

UFC champions’ declining star power

On July 3, 2010, Brock Lesnar defeated Shane Carwin to unify the UFC heavyweight belt, completing Lesnar’s comeback from diverticulitis. As compiled by Dave Meltzer, the authority on such matters, the pay-per-view buyrate for that event was more than 1 million — the sixth time that had happened in UFC history, the third involving Lesnar. That has happened only once since then. The champions as of that date: Heavyweight: Lesnar Light heavyweight: Mauricio “Shogun” Rua Middleweight: Anderson Silva Welterweight: Georges St. Pierre Lightweight: Frankie Edgar Edgar had recently upset BJ Penn for the lightweight belt, then showed later in the … Continue reading UFC champions’ declining star power

The Ultimate Fighter 21, Episode 1: These teams matter

How do you keep The Ultimate Fighter fresh after 10 years? Give the UFC credit for trying. In 2011, they used it to introduce their bantamweight and featherweight divisions. T.J. Dillashaw has gone on to do pretty well for himself, and John Dodson isn’t bad, either. In 2012, they tried a live season. They decided it didn’t work, so they backed away. Then — women! First as coaches and half the cast as Ronda Rousey yelled at Miesha Tate for a while. Then as the whole cast last season, with the winner getting the belt. (And, sadly, not successfully defending it.) This … Continue reading The Ultimate Fighter 21, Episode 1: These teams matter

NWSL: A worthwhile investment, not a charity

Women’s soccer players are giving up a lot to play professionally. That was the point of my recent post at SoccerWire and Jeff Kassouf’s piece on players retiring in their 20s. Deciding to play or retire isn’t easy, as Colleen Williams eloquently describes in her piece about stepping away after a couple of knee injuries. Some people are still chasing a spot on the national team. Some just want to keep playing as long as they can. The thin silver lining here is that players’ opportunities are improving. Imagine how these pieces would’ve been written in 2007, when players who … Continue reading NWSL: A worthwhile investment, not a charity

European academies and stunted growth

Is this the model we want? Chelsea’s had 68 players play in an FA Youth Cup final in the last 10 years. They’ve played in a total of 84 senior team matches, an average of 1.2 matches per player. Nobody’s played more in that group than Josh McEachran, who’s featured 22 times on the senior level. … Chelsea will continue putting off their first team minutes until, by the time they’re 23, they’ve been shipped off on a bevy of different loan spells in myriad different systems. Lacking a consistent, solid ground on which to plant themselves, they’ll then be sold … Continue reading European academies and stunted growth

Takeaways from Washington Spirit v North Carolina

North Carolina is always an interesting test for NWSL teams in preseason. They’re often missing a couple of players from various national teams (Katie Bowen started for New Zealand against the USA earlier in the day), and the remaining players are athletic and aggressive. That skillset is especially challenging for midfielders who need to rev up to regular-season playing speed. A little mistake or hesitation, and you’re going to be dispossessed and/or on the ground. “In the past, they’ve been one of the teams we’ve played first in preseason,” said Tori Huster, one of the few Spirit players with any … Continue reading Takeaways from Washington Spirit v North Carolina

Jill Ellis stubbornly goes forth into the World Cup

U.S. women’s soccer coach Jill Ellis talked with Grant Wahl, at last giving someone a chance to ask questions that have been kicking around in the Twittersphere for a while. On Twitter, they were often phrased something like “What the &*%$! is that midfield supposed to be?!” Here, it’s “Why don’t you consider using a pure defensive midfielder?” A few takeaways: 1. Ellis still talks about a core of 13-14 players. That would be an unusual approach. In 1999, Tony DiCicco rested several players in the final group game against North Korea — Michelle Akers and Kate Markgraf sat the whole way, … Continue reading Jill Ellis stubbornly goes forth into the World Cup